A majority of people may not be clear about the rights of the wife in husband property in India after his death. It would be pertinent to mention here that the rights of the wife in the property of her husband after his death would be dependent on a few vital aspects. The foremost aspect would be that of joint ownership of husband and wife. The second aspect to consider would be the nature of the property of the husband, i.e. ancestral or self-acquired.
Let us delve into these two vital aspects briefly.
In the event of property jointly acquired by both the husband and the wife during the marriage, the nature of ownership would determine the rights of the wife in the property of her deceased husband. It would be pertinent to mention here that joint ownership could be divided into the following:
Tenancy in common
In such a situation, there is no right to survivorship. The share of the co-owner goes to the legal heirs upon his demise.
On the death of the co-owner, his share would pass on to the surviving co-owners.
Tenancy by entirety
Tenancy by the entirety has been deemed a special kind of joint tenancy taking place only between the husband and the wife. In such ownership, the husband and the wife could not pass their share in the property to the third person without each other’s consent. It would be pertinent to mention here that tenancy by entirety would be terminated through mutual consent, death of either spouse or by legal separation.
Presumption of ownership
Unless it has been specifically stated in the document of property, it has been presumed by law that the tenancy would be common between the co-owners. However, it would be pertinent to mention here that presumption for a married couple would be tenancy by the entirety unless it has been specifically mentioned in the agreement.
It would be recommended to disclose the nature of the ownership in the title document. It would help you avoid legal problems arising later.
Ancestral or self-acquired property
Under the Hindu law, the wife would inherit the property of her husband only after he dies intestate. The wife would inherit the property equally with other legal heirs in case the husband dies intestate.
In the case of ancestral property, the wife would be entitled to a share out of the husband’s share in the property, without any right to claim partition. If the partition has been affected, she would be entitled to her share as Class I legal heir.
In the case of self-acquired property and the husband dying intestate, the wife inherits the property as Class I heir.
Under The Indian Succession Act, for people of other faiths other than Hindus, the succession of the property would be governed by personal laws. A Christian wife along with other legal heirs would have the right to property of the deceased husband, despite the mode of acquisition of the property. A Muslim wife would have 1/8th share in the property of the deceased husband if she has children from the marriage, and if she does not have children, she would be entitled to 1/4th share of the deceased husband’s property.